I’ve mentioned before, that my process for making art is also a process of mental wellness and healing – of processing myself in the process of art making.
I’m going to unpack that a little today. As best I can anyway. I’m doing this for both of us.
We’ll start with a simple fact: I’m keeping way too much shit couped up in my head.
It’s one thing to be full to the brim with ideas, and another to be filled with ideas, an endless array of thoughts, anxiety, depression, nasty emotions, hard feelings, burnout, suffocating memories…
Although I sometimes try against my own will to keep all of those things balled up inside, inevitably, they need to come out in some capacity or another.
So I try to keep things… organized, to say the very least.
That is actually the only word I can come up with for what I’ve done, but others may just call it neurotic. Accurate on both accounts, most likely.
I have a handful of lists in my Google Keep: two different grocery lists, daily habit building list (includes shit like “remember to take a multivitamin”, “exercise”, etc.), a date night idea list, a “things we need for the house” list… more.
I keep Pinterest boards for outfit ideas, dinner ideas, art inspiration, Dungeons and Dragons inspiration… more.
I’ve broken down my huge goals into projects that I’ve broken down into tasks and action items in Asana project manager.
I use Evernote for all of the articles I want to read, or have read and want to save.
I keep a journal for the hard emotions and depressing thoughts, and another for whimsical nothings.
I have a Google Sheet where I track my moods, and grade my days on a scale of 1 to 5, five being stellar and one being a fucking disaster. (This actually started as a way to determine, without a therapist, if I have bi-polar disorder instead of depression. Results are inconclusive, but the act of keeping the sheet gives me some level of peace and makes me feel a little less crazy – ironically).
Sometimes I think I’m doing way too much still. Sometimes I think all of this is just a form of hoarding, or at the very least, collecting shit.
Mostly I see myself as utilizing these tools and methods as an extension of my own storage capacity.
I am now a little disturbed by the fact that I just compared myself to some kind of device. But I’ll just leave that there for now.
All of these little activities, together, create a torch light for me to carry when I’m lost in the darkest places of mind. Which seems to be happening more frequently, and at this juncture, I know there is no point in avoiding going there all together.
I hear avoidance is pretty toxic anyway.
And then I have my art studio…
Sometimes I come into my studio full of life, with a clear mind, ready to engage with my work in a technical way that brings meaning and purpose to the final piece.
The rest of the time I come into my studio… well, I’m usually there let go of soul crushing thoughts, anger, frustration, feelings of not enoughness and then some.
And when I say let go I mean rage. I mean pour, splash, stroke, throw, plop, smash, grind, cut and paste that shit onto a canvas… onto paper… onto boards… into words…
It’s usually when I go back with the clear mind, that what I’ve done with the fractured mind makes sense.
It’s not until I revisit and contemplate the spontaneous, that meaning comes to life.
Pain is both a blessing and a curse. My overactive, depressed and anxious mind is both my joy and my sorrow. I mostly hate it, but I’m learning to send love there as well.
Which is not easy, let me tell you.
But it’s possible.
And possibility, as opposed to scarcity, is something that I really need right now. It’s something we all really need right now.
And that’s just one of the many things I have to say through my work.
Another huge part of my process is writing.
Usually after I finish a piece I find a concise and poetic way to explain the piece. A blurb to give the viewer just enough information.
And of course there are the titles.
I love titling my work – it’s like giving birth to a child and naming it. I suppose. I don’t have children.
But I certainly enjoy naming things.
Discovering the essence and articulating that…
It’s a beautiful thing.
I like to write other things too. As you can see here, of course.
I also keep a private, secondary blog, just for me to practice writing and express myself more freely. Some of that work may find it’s way over here one of these days – we’ll see.
Writing is also a self-care habit that I’ve formed to deal with the effects of depression and anxiety. Journaling and writing honestly turns into great material to refer back to when I’m examining my work in relation to myself.
My newest piece, Sticks and Stones (pictured below), became an outlet for all of the shitty things I’ve been internalizing – the negative self-talk that’s been bogging me down – words and phrases that are sometimes clear and painful, and at other times harsh and confusing. It started when I found the word IN, in a travel magazine, looking bold and perfect with it’s tropical scene. I was reminded of the bold and “perfect” faces that I, and so many others, put forward to make sure the world knows we’re OK; to make sure they don’t see what we’re internalizing. A larger conversation started to reveal itself to me as I moved through this work… negative self-talk and mental illness aren’t specific to me. I always hope that in creating this type of work, and opening up about these sorts of topics, that I’m creating space for someone else to feel held, heard, seen and/or accepted.
(“Sticks and Stones”, 10in x 10in, mixed media on canvas.)
Surely you will not break my bones, for words are more like poison than stone.
Coming to the end of my process and finishing a piece is intrinsically rewarding.
Art making is my own kind of orgasmic experience.
And all I know is that I look forward to continuing to trek this wild, intriguing and tumultuous path for as long as I can.
I am a process. Art is a process. Isn’t everything?